This above April Fools joke was meant to celebrate the opening of a new subway! Very cool! Do you have any practical jokes planned for today? (perhaps not so elaborate, but maybe!) And, by the way, some practical jokes can laudably have a wonderful message to them, shaking us to the core of our existence, letting us know who we are before man and God, in need of the goodness and kindness of Jesus, in need of the salvation He came to bring to us, riding on a… donkey.
Today, wonderfully is also Palm Sunday. We read in the Gospels how our Lord was welcomed into Jerusalem, riding on a Jackass, while the children spread out palms and garments on the path on which the donkey was to trod. This reminds us of Zechariah 9,9:
Rejoice heartily, O daughter Zion, shout for joy, O daughter Jerusalem! See, your King shall come to you. A just Savior is He, meek, and riding on a Jackass, on a colt, the foal of a Jenny.
Quite a while back, on a post about the Holy Name of Jesus, I wrote this:
From the Hebrew, we have: הוֹשַׁע־נָא, which, transliterated into the Greek of the New Testament, is Ὡσαννὰ, which, transliterated into the Latin of the Vulgate, is Osanna, which, transliterated into English, is Hosanna.
This is what all the crowds were crying out as Jesus entered into Jerusalem on my all time favorite beast, the donkey, the Jackass:
“And the crowds were going before Him, and those following cried out, saying, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David. The One who is coming in the Name of the Lord perfectly continues to be perfectly blessed. Hosanna in the highest places’” (Matthew 21,9).
I remember perhaps the most highly hailed spiritual director in Rome (not mine) giving a homily about this word, hosanna, which he insisted with effervescent niceness was no more and no less than a wonderfully joyous exclamation of exuberant niceness. Well… um… No! After I told him what the word meant, he half threw a tantrum, insisting that I never, ever give a homily based on the meaning of that word, for “that would be the worst thing.” Let’s just ignore his protestations, and see what this is all about.
The meaning of הוֹשַׁע־נָא, in Hebrew, the start of all this, is “Therefore, because of that… Save us!” In context with the crowds welcoming Jesus into Jerusalem, the “Hosanna in the highest places” bit, the meaning is, “Because you are in the highest places (hailing Him as the Son of God), therefore, because of that, save us!” In other words, we are not in the highest places. We have no power to save ourselves. Because you are, in fact, in the highest places, therefore, save us! You can do it. We can’t. So, do it! Save us!
Now, the mockery of Jesus when He was in the highest places, that is, when He was lifted up on the Cross, when He would draw all to Himself, when He would save us, was spoken by the religious leaders of the time: “Come down from there. Save yourself and save us! Just come down, and then we will believe!” But He chose to stay in that highest of all places, and actually save us.
To the point, “Hosanna!” (Therefore, save us!), is the verbal form of the Holy Name of Jesus, so that the Name Jesus means “Savior.”
Christ, meaning “anointed”, is, in Hebrew, Messiah. So, Christ Jesus means “Anointed Savior.”
So, it being that Jesus means Savior, how is it that we are to use that Holy Name? Well, we are to believe what the name says, and so use it from the perspective of one who is being saved by the One who is doing the saving, the Savior, Jesus!
Jesus, have mercy on me, a sinner! = O Savior, have mercy on me, a sinner! The Lord’s mercy saves us. When we call on Jesus’ name, Savior, we call on His mercy.
Oh, and just to say. In the Gospels, the use of the appelative “Lord” — Kurios — is what is used for Yahweh, taking the example of the Greek Old Testament. Some people think Yahweh is strictly Old Testament, and that it would be evil to use it today. That’s just anti-Semitism flaunting blasphemy against the Holy Spirit who inspired the Sacred Scriptures. Yahweh means “The One who causes to be.” Sounds ever applicable to the Lord, to Jesus, through whom all things were made and are held in existence, no?
The Lord Jesus = the Savior who causes to be, that is, who brings about a new creation within us by way of the mercy, the salvation, which He, the Savior, Jesus, brings to us.
Now then, back to April Fools and Palm Sunday! …
As I’ve also noted elsewhere, the twelve tribes of the sons of Jacob, taken as one nation, were symbolized by a donkey, a Jackass, and this from time immemorial (way, way, way before Jesus and Zechariah). I, for one, think donkeys are the most wonderful beasts in the world, for they are hard workers, can sing superbly (and loudly), and are exquisitely intelligent, doing only what they understand (which really is very intelligent, and rare in any age).
Not all think so highly of the Jackass, and consider the Jackass to be a symbol of foolishness, of slavery, of stupidity. The old childhood saying that I remember is appropriate here: What you say is what you are.
The sons of Jacob bore the revelation of Almighty God to the world as God’s chosen people. But God’s good and just ways make fallen mankind nervous, and so there is a rejection of that revelation as foolishness, something fit for Jackasses, for the Jackass among all the nations.
That’s the way it has to be. The sons of Jacob have suffered tremendously for being thought of as fools in the whole world. But the sons of Jacob are proud to be bearers of God’s revelation. It is a badge of honor to be thought of as being foolish when one is so very in the right that it shakes fallen human nature to its core.
Jesus said that salvation comes from the Jews. Jesus was the Son of David, the Messiah, the Savior, He Who Is. There is no one more Jewish than He. Of course He is going to ride a donkey into Jerusalem where He will accomplish our salvation. He is riding proudly on all of the sons of Jacob to do so, and they are proud to carry Him: Hossana to the Son of David!
I think that our problem these days is that we don’t rejoice in irony. We must. Judaeo-Catholic revelation is full of irony. Jesus is Irony Incarnate. Read the Scriptures. Read Augustine. Read Chesterton. Read Belloc. Discover irony!
But just remember this. Those who so eagerly hailed Jesus would also be there to condemn Him. And that includes all of us. Our sins have done that. Jesus took on the worst we could give out, what we deserve for original and personal sin, death, and so had the right in justice to have mercy on us. Hossana to the Son of David! Hossana to the Son of God! Hosanna to the Son of the Immaculate Conception, that Woman of Genesis 3,15. We are all guilty, and therefore we are all included in Jesus’ request to His Father: “Father, forgive them; they know not what they do.”